Thursday, March 1, 2012

October - One year in-country

-I started talking with my parents about the possibility of coming home for Christmas – I'm happy to say that it happened, a much needed break from Burkina, although coming back was rough for a few days. The transition from Burkina to the US and back is not an easy one in a lot of aspects, but seeing the people I love was worth it, even if I drove them crazy with my constant exclamations of “Oh my gosh – look at this eggplant! It's so big!” I also got to celebrate Dad's birthday with German Chocolate cupcakes, which felt very fitting and would have been a little difficult in Burkina.

-We got a new prefet this month, I met him once on the day I went to go say goodbye to my old prefet, and then didn't see him again until January (watching Burkina lose to Angola in Africa Cup soccer)! Despite my old prefet's annoying need to constantly say that I needed to dump my boyfriend and stay in Burkina with him forever, I was actually a bit fond of him and even a little sad to see him go. He was always fun to go sit and talk with, and he was fairly helpful when I came to him with the idea for the Moringa Project.

-I wrote this on October 7th, in response to a text message question from Sunyata, and as part of that great soul-searching experience that is Peace Corps, I wanted to share it.

Anniversaries are a good time to reflect, although it's kind of hard to believe some days that I've been in Burkina for a year (a year already? Only a year?) So much has changed since I got to the country, since I got to village, but it's usually kind of hard to see unless I'm looking. I feel more settled, although things still throw me off some days. I'm more fluent in French and Moore, although I often feel like I don't understand as much as I want to/should. I feel like I'm finding work and purpose, although I also feel like I should have accomplished more by now. I have friends, Burkinabe and American, that I didn't when I got here. I can see that I've changed a lot, but it's hard to put into words and quantify. A change in the way I think. The way I see things. I ask more questions. I want to share myself more with people. I reflect more. I worry a little less. I try to find the humor in situations. I feel the ups and downs more acutely – emotions are bigger, more powerful. I make a point to try and listen to myself, to figure out what I'm feeling and needing and wanting, and how to act on those. I've become a little more serious in some aspects and a little more playful in others.

Unexpected? A lot of the above. I knew I would change by coming here, I just had absolutely no idea how or in what ways. I realized that I'm a little more shy than I thought, especially in very new situations when I don't know how to act or what's expected of me. I've found an enjoyment of cooking, renewed a love of tea and reading, and I've become pretty good at condensing text messages and interpreting the cryptic half-words that somehow make sense now. I'm less annoyed by flies landing on me, but still shudder when anything else crawls up my leg. I think I expected to get over a fear of spiders, but I still hate them, I just let them live if they're near the ceiling and showing no signs of coming down into my territory. I thought I'd be more scared of scorpions, but (knock on wood) the two I've seen have been pretty small and I was fairly calm about getting rid of them. I've found that I have the patience to capture flies on my screen door and let them outside, one by one, rather than kill them and have to clean bug guts off the door. After thinking about it for years I finally shaved all my hair off (twice!), and although it's not a favorite style I'm glad I finally did it and wonder why I never did earlier.

The most influential – can I wimp out and say everything? Being here is just so....everything has an impact. While it's normal now for me to take an hour or two just to shop for some veggies, to use a latrine, to bathe out of a bucket, to stop and greet practically everyone I see, to put on sunscreen two or three times a day, to wake up in the middle of the night to close my windows and move my furniture away from the windows when it starts raining, to gather my water 20L at a time in a plastic jug carried on the back of my bike, to even ride a bike on a regular basis, to laugh off children who are afraid of me and adults who stare and make 'rude' comments, to live without electricity, to do laundry and dishes by hand, to sleep under a mosquito net, to speak in 3 languages daily and think in 2 of them, to cook most every meal from scratch out of the same 4 veggies...that's all “normal” now, it's even comfortable most of the time, but still so different from life in the US and changing the way I act and think and see my life and the world in big and small ways. I'm better at improvising – if I don't have what I need I'm confident I can jerry-rig something to make it work for the moment, even when I'm out of duct tape.

Favorite village moment(s). Hmm. The first day I forced myself to leave my courtyard without someone coming to get me. The first time I bought bread and everyone was super nice and helping me say what I wanted in Moore. The first day someone visited my courtyard just to sit and talk. The slow realization that I'm starting to fit in and make my home here. Long conversations. Reading books I'd never have read otherwise. Not screaming or freaking out when I had bats or other creatures show up unexpectedly. The first time I called this home and called the people here my friends. The first time I left village and actually felt sad to be leaving. This last time when I came back to village and felt such a profound sense of relief and happiness to be home. The first time it rained. Days when I smile so much my cheeks hurt. The satisfaction and accomplishment I feel when I finish my laundry and see all my clothing flapping proudly in the breeze. Dancing in my living room. Cooking something new and tasty! (today I made a sandwich with lentils, onion, green pepper, cumin, and garlic, topped with tomato slices – it was delicious and made up as I went along). All the little moments, really.

-Made further progress on Moringa Project, speaking to each school director individually. Emily and I had wanted to start planting trees in our villages at the beginning of the school year so that it could be a competition between the schools and between the villages, but due to a lack of response to our grant request, we continued with the process bit by bit and decided to delay planting until November.

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